Finish #4 in the books for the infamous Mountain Mist 50K on the rugged trails of Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, AL. Bottom line for me is a finish time of 5:41:39 (course PR by 16min), 53d overall out of 274 finishers (previous best finish was 77th place). Although great portions of the course get worse every passing year, this year’s ice and snow kept the muddiness down, at least for front half of the pack, and overall speed better than normal. I felt pretty good in the first half, moving quite well down Warparth Ridge, etc for a split time of about 2:48 at Fearn Drive (at least 10min faster than norms in 2007-2008). Second half went well, but I was struggling for to keep the pace going crossing over Monte Sano Blvd and into McKay Hollow. I knew was on course PR time, so abandoned any though of ‘enjoying’ the race and pushed the suffering level quite hard. Usually I can come off of Rest Shelter and drop the hammer, was a tad more subdued this year coming onto the plateau. But overall results were good, don’t think I could’ve squeezed more than 2-3 more minutes of my time today.
The really lovely thing about this race is the start is a mere 10min drive from my house. So I actually slept in, waking up 0630, prepped a mug of green tea (to clear the system out an hour hence), put on my race gear, headed up to Monte Sano. I got to lodge aboit 0700, and jawboned with some my fellow Fleet Feet Racing Team comrades, then Christian Griffith, Tony Gonzalez and other from the GUTS/Atlanta crew.
Race started right on time at 0800. Breaking the race down by sections, I came around the Mtn Mist Trail portion with steady pace, right behind Christy Scott most of the way. Pushed some fuel and electrolytes while up on the Gravel Road and Family Bike Trail.
After A/S #1, I took my foot off the brakes and let it loose down Warpath Ridge all the way out the Powerlines, passing 10-15 people on the way and taking the home court advantage while I could. The nice part (or sometimes worst) aspect of coming out on to the powerlines is that, with a quick glance to the south, I can see my house in the distance and contemplate how easy it would be just to head home! But non of that, turned north, worked the wide open spaces under the Powerlines, and back into the single track trail. The climb up K2 went fine, but took a few minutes along the Goat Trail for my legs to come back.
I blew right through A/S #2 at 3 Benches, still had plenty of water from the race start. Splits along Keith and Logan Point Trail probably a little slower, did not see much of anybody all the way around to Stone Cuts and into the Sinks. Had to make a pitstop back up on the Mtn Mist trail before heading to Cold Springs and Fearn Drive, probably cost me an extra 5min there.
I moved steadily to Fearn Drive, split was about 2:48, fastest I have ever gotten there. Filled up water bottle and boogied right out and into the Land Trust. My legs were starting to feel it some by now, but also moving into a section of the course I knew well and could run. Steadily passed 4-5 more folks over High Trail, Bluffline and R/R Bed trails, then passed Jon Elmore in the Alms House area (Jon was having a rough time, but rallied well after Monte Sano Blvd to finish strong). Swallowed down some Perpetuem just before 3 Caves, then made the left turn up the Waterline. Climbed well and steady, passing Marty Coleman and then Sally Brooking, but not going up that section with as much intensity as I have been about to generate in the past; went up better even during the Reverse Double Mountain Mist stunt two years ago. But oh well, topped out fine, gotten a shuffle going again on the way to Monte Sano Blvd (the slowness captured quite alarmingly in Marcus Farris’ excellent video, see 1:50 mark).
I crossed over Monte Sano with Sally Brooking right on my tail, she ended up pushing me the rest of the race. Got an OK rhythm going again heading towards Natural Well, but legs not allowing too fast a tempo any more, especially in the rocks. Moved fairly well down into McKay Hollow, though the trail has more rocks, tree roots and washouts than I can ever remember (a sure sign of my old age). Couldn’t move all that great across the final stretch of Natural Well trail, but turned onto the McKay Hollow trail around 5hr mark and did run well along the Slush Mile, mentally forcing myself to pick up my legs and drive the body over the final miles. The climb up Rest Shelter was difficult as usual; in training I had been able to run nearly all of it, but had to power-hike about half of it today. But stayed mentally focused and kept pushing, really stretching myself to get as much of a PR as I could. Topped out on Rest Shelter hill with Sally right on my ass, greeted warmly by Dink Taylor ("only 1.9mi of candy-ass trail to go, and you got a 54-year old woman right behind you!"), swallowed a cup of coke and willed my legs to get going again. First 1/4mi out of the aid station was tough, but finally got a rhythm going and ran well all the way to the finish. Fortunately, Sally stopped to finish sipping her beer, or she probably would have beaten me! Made the left turn towards the lodge and took it the house in 5:41:39.
Took a few minutes to gather my wits, down a recovery drink and walk around a few minutes to let my stomach settle down. Jawboned with folks from the local area and GUTS crew from Atlanta, wandering back-forth from the warmth of the lodge to the finish area outside to greet folks coming in. After a half-hour or so, went to the food line and downed some pizza, and chatted with DeWayne, Rob, James Falcon, Dave Riddle, Blake Thompson, and many others. Waited another 90min to see Tim Kerstetter finish, then to see Carol Eaton come across the line for her Fleet Feet Slam finish.
Got home around 1700 and showered up. Was considering the post-race party at Duffy’s, always a good time. But when I sat down on the couch for a second, Luke (my youngest) curled up in my lap and promptly fell asleep. And you know, I just stayed right there with him for the next hour, comfortable and warm; a nice way to wrap up the day.
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